Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of prosecutors has informed US President Donald Trump’s attorneys that the president is not considered a criminal target in the Russia investigation, a person familiar with the conversation said.
The person, who was not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations and spoke on condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday that the president is considered a subject of Mueller’s probe — not a target.
A subject is typically someone whose conduct is of interest to investigators, but prosecutors are not certain they have gathered enough evidence to bring charges.
However, the designation could change at any time.
The development was first reported on Tuesday by the Washington Post.
Trump’s designation as a subject came up as prosecutors and the president’s legal team negotiate the terms of an interview with him.
The president has said he wants to speak with Mueller’s team, but his lawyers have not publicly committed to allowing him to be questioned.
On Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to say whether the president remains willing to be questioned.
In response to a question about the president being a subject, not a target, of the investigation, Sanders reiterated the president’s claim that his campaign did not collude with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“We know what we did and what we didn’t do, so none of this comes as much of a surprise,” Sanders said, referring further questions to Trump’s attorneys.
Trump attorney Jay Sekulow declined to confirm or discuss the conversations with Mueller, saying: “We do not discuss real or alleged conversations between our legal team and the Office of Special Counsel.”
White House lawyer Ty Cobb declined to comment.
The US Department of Justice typically treats people involved in investigations as witnesses, subjects or targets.
Mueller’s determination that Trump is a subject suggests he is more pivotal to the investigation than a mere witness, a designation for someone who has observed events of interest to agents and prosecutors.
“The government will say you’re a subject trending to witness or you’re a subject trending toward target,” said Sharon McCarthy, a former US federal prosecutor in Manhattan.
Although targets tend to be people the government is gathering evidence against with the goal of prosecuting, subjects have a much looser, broader definition.
“A subject means we’re still looking at you,” McCarthy said. “You’re a person of interest in this investigation.”
Still, the import of the designation was not immediately clear. It is not known, for instance, if Mueller’s office has concluded that, at the moment, there is insufficient evidence to consider Trump a target.
It is also possible that prosecutors agree they are bound by a Justice Department legal opinion that contends that a sitting president cannot be indicted.
A grand jury is the way indictments are issued.
Yet, the White House witnesses with the most direct information about Trump’s actions in the White House have spoken privately with Mueller’s team instead of being summoned before the grand jury, a possible indication that their statements are being used for the purposes of assembling a report rather than pursuing criminal charges.
Mueller’s team has signaled that they are interested in discussing several key episodes in the early parts of the Trump administration as they probe possible obstruction of justice.
Prosecutors have told the legal team they want to question Trump about the firings of former FBI director James Comey and former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Investigators want to discuss conversations Trump had with Comey in which the former FBI director has said the president encouraged him to end an active investigation into Flynn.
They are also interested in the events leading up to Flynn’s firing in February last year.
Investigators have said they want to hear from the president to understand his intent and thinking during those events.
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
Australia is notorious for its venomous spiders, snakes and sea creatures, but researchers have now identified “scorpion-like” toxins secreted by a tree that can cause excruciating pain for weeks. Split-second contact with the dendrocnide tree, a rainforest nettle known by its Aboriginal name gympie-gympie, delivers a sting far more potent than similar plants found in the US or Europe. A team of Australian scientists said that they now better understand why the gympie-gympie’s sting haunts those unlucky enough to brush up against its leaves. Victims report an initial sting that “feels like fire at first, then subsides over hours to a pain reminiscent